Meet the fastest Ducati road bike ever – the £93,000 Superleggera V4
Ducati’s Superleggera is arguably the world’s fastest road-legal bike, with an arm-ripping 234hp. It tops the scales at just 152.4kg (with race kit). No other bikes on the planet can match its power-to-weight ratio of 1.54hp/kg, and those double aerodynamic wings should make it the fastest road-legal bike around any race track in the world.
But, if you want one you will have to be quick. Ducati is only making 500 machines. And they’re €100,000 each. So what makes the new Superleggera so special?
The carbon biplane aerofoils are inspired by Ducati’s 2016 MotoGP bike. Back in 2016, there wasn’t any restriction on the size and shape of the wings in MotoGP, unlike now, so the ‘16 racing bike had the most effective wings of all time. In fact, the downforce created by the road Superleggera is higher than the current 2020 Ducati MotoGP machine, which has to conform to strict regulations on size. At 168mph the wings produce 50kg of downforce, 20kg more than the current Panigale with a single wing. That is a colossal amount of force to improve stability, reduce wheelies, and therefore improve acceleration, braking and corner entry. To reduce wheelies further the lighter carbon swing-arm is 11mm longer. And 0.9kg lighter.
The heart of the bike
The 998cc V4 engine is very special – stolen from the ‘top-spec’ R model, made even lighter, and given more power than before. The engine is 2.8kg lighter than a standard V4 and is assembled like a race engine. Even the base and head bolts are now titanium rather than steel. In standard form, the road-legal Superleggera engine makes 224hp at 15,250rpm, and that’s with a road-legal titanium exhaust made in partnership with Akrapovic. Add the full race exhaust and power jumps to 234hp, which is staggering.
Each engine is hand-built. The Desmo valve timing (no springs) is set up by a specific engineer, who signs off each bike once everything is set perfectly. Even with all that power, service intervals remain every 7,500 miles, the same as the standard V4.
Ducati’s Superleggera is the world’s only road-legal bike where the entire load-bearing structure of the bike is made from carbon fibre, including the chassis, subframe, swing-arm and wheels. That saves a massive 6.7kg. The new bodywork is all carbon, and there’s titanium and magnesium components, and machined aluminium throughout the bike, even on the key. Ducati has cut weight without limitations at every opportunity, without consulting the accounts department. Even the rear shock spring is titanium.
In standard trim, the Italian stunner weighs just 159kg. Dry, that’s 16kg lighter than a standard V4. But add the race kit, with its lighter exhaust, and removed mirrors and licence plate holder, and you’re down to 152.2kg. The race kit comes with the bike and includes the race Akrapovic exhaust, mirror blanking plates, rear number plate blanking plate, and covers for the front and rear of the light, along with a host of carbon covers.
Brakes and suspension
As you’d imagine, Ducati hasn’t considered cost when it comes to the suspension and brakes. For example, the Brembo Stylema R monobloc callipers are the best on the market, and the pistons feature cooling holes to reduce brake fade. This is the first time they have been used on a road bike. Even the Brembo master cylinder features a remote adjuster. The suspension is provided by Ohlins, obviously fully adjustable, with pressurised NPX25/30 forks, and a TTX36 rear. Using technology derived from Moto GP, the rear shock has hydraulic valve technology. Again, to save weight, the fork bottoms are made of machined aluminium, which saves 0.6kg over standard.
Controlling the power
Simply adding the electronics from the current Panigale R won't work, as the Superleggera is lighter, with more power and considerable downforce created by the double wings. Therefore it boasts a completely new electronics package. As you’d expect, a six-axis IMU is in constant communication with the cornering ABS, slide control, traction control, anti-wheelie, launch control, up and down quickshifter and changeable engine braking strategies. Rider aids can be trimmed and changed to meet different demands. Ducati has also added three additional new rider modes, called simply A,B and C. The first two are track specific, and the third is for the road. Don’t forget, this stunner is road-legal and can be used to ride to the shops.
Now the really impressive bit. Alessandro Valia, an official Ducati tester, took a road-going Superleggera, fitted with the racing kit and slick tires, around the Mugello circuit in 1:52:45. For reference, that’s less than two seconds from the lap time of the Panigale V4R SBK, winner of the 2019 Italian Championship (CIV) with Michele Pirro riding. To be two seconds off race pace on a road bike is incredible, on a shorter track, such as those in the UK, that gap would be even less. In theory, hypothetically, Valia the Ducati test rider could ride to a track, quickly fit the race kit and qualify in the top 20 in a national championship. Then remove the race kit and ride home again.
I want one. Where do I sign?
For your €100,000 you don’t just get a bike, oh no. New owners will have access to the ‘SBK Experience’, which allows them to ride the World Superbike Ducati around Mugello. Furthermore, if you want to splash out, you can spend an additional €30,000 to ride the actual Ducati Desmosedici GP20 Moto GP as used by Petrucci and Dovizioso. However, this is limited to just 30 spaces, and you must be the ‘correct’ size. And if you really want to spend some money, Ducati is offering colour matching Dainese air-bag leathers, and a carbon fibre helmet from Arai. If you’re going to cash in your pension, you might as well spend it all.